I Love You, Jose, But…

From Michael to Fredo.

Point guard controversy? Dwane Casey says there isn’t one and of course he’s right. Controversy usually implies that there is a contentious, usually riddled with some emotion, subject to have a controversy over. The point guard tandem we have evokes no emotions in either direction because both options are mediocre at best. If you do perchance to debate, consider some points. Before I present them, let me say that this so-called debate doesn’t hold great interest to me since the foregone conclusion is that they’ll both play equal minutes. This will be justified by citing the importance of some blend of youth and experience which every fan (including me) just accepts blindly.

The first side of the story is that Calderon is 30 years old, and Bayless is 23. And to be honest, that alone settles the debate right there, regardless of what Calderon’s history and experience might be. A 30-year old point guard starting ahead of a 23-year old one doesn’t add up to a rebuilding year. The only time such a decision makes sense is in the case of rookies, and maybe second year players. Take Jrue Holiday for example – he started 51 games his first season as he was easing into the PG role. His second season he started all 82. Case closed, there’s your point guard.

Bayless is entering his fourth season and has started at most 14 games a season, and that was his last with all 14 coming in a Raptors uniform. It would be unjustifiable to say that the Raptors are giving Bayless his “chance” by bringing him off the bench. Before you give me the “it doesn’t matter who starts, but who finishes” BS and how they’ll approximately play the same amount of minutes, consider that what giving somebody their “chance” means. A chance means a legitimate shot at running the team and making the position his own. A chance equates to getting the car keys and being asked to race, not sit in the back seat and only drive when the roads are dry. The amount of chances the Raptors have given Calderon to own that position are countless, and yet here we are six years later and he still hasn’t established himself as #1.

I’d even contend that there hasn’t been a single season in six years where there hasn’t been debate around the point guard spot. Either it’s T.J Ford, Jarrett Jack, Jerryd Bayless, there were even calls for Roko Ukic to get starting! The fact, and it is a fact not any sort of conjecture or inference, that Calderon hasn’t been able to establish himself as a consensus #1 option at PG, means that he should be evicted and officially marked with the Darrick Martin stamp. It’s time to turn a new page, and it doesn’t matter if Bayless is one of those pages that you spilled coffee on and is all sticky and disgusting, it’s a change!

The leadership Calderon brings? Puh-lease. This team has been lacking leadership for years and that’s a well-known fact, no able-minded person can honestly believe that having Calderon (or for that matter, any Raptors player thus far) and not having him on the court, or even in the lockerroom for that matter, is having any impact on the overall sense of leadership. Experience? Exactly what experience are we referring to? NBA championships? Deep playoff runs? Any playoff experience? There’s nothing here to mine. Technically speaking, Mike Bibby would bring better experience than Calderon.

I’m not saying Bayless is a better player than Calderon, he’s clearly not, what I’m getting at is that if there’s been a time and a chance for the Raptors to find out the potential of player they have in Bayless, it’s now! They say by the third season you get an idea of what a player is all about, we’ll afford Bayless an extension on account of his playing time over the years, but it’s only a single year’s extension. At the end of the season the Raptors have to decide whether to pick up his qualifying offer, and you don’t want to do that on partial information.

If you’re still with me, then you think I hate Calderon. I don’t. Here’s his side of the story: loyal solider who has remained truly professional throughout his career, and has taken an excessive and undue amount of criticism because of his defense, of lack thereof. I am shocked that he’s still on the roster because at this stage in his career, I can think of at least four other teams he can greatly help: Lakers, Spurs, Mavericks, and Miami. I’m sure I’m missing a few. For his sake, he needs to play in a winning environment and the Raptors franchise owes it to him to trade him to a team where he can finally be recognized for the floor general he is (and I don’t mean Charlotte, that would’ve been a kick in the teeth).

In his six seasons with the Raptors, Calderon has been on one winning team, and during this period the Raptors have a winning percentage of .423! The guy does not even know what winning means, what can we possibly expect from him at this point in his career? I remember when Mitchell got fired and Kenny Smith dissed Jose. I remember it clearly because I felt sorry for him, and I knew Calderon did not deserve it. He was being pushed into a role which he never was truly comfortable with, and the criticism came not because he wasn’t a good point guard, but because the Raptors had set extremely unfair expectations of him based on half a season. Juggling him between starting and bench duties have completely thrown off his career, to the point where he’s lost his identity. We’ve called on him to be more aggressive on the break, shoot the ball more, improve his range, hold his own on defense, become a drive-and-kick PG, all without realizing that with every ask, we’re moving him away from his comfort zone and natural ability.

I was hoping for a trade to the Lakers when they instead signed Steve Blake. He would’ve been a perfect in LA with Gasol, and it’s unfortunate that he remains on a project which has passed him by. Calderon will probably get his minutes again and play well in stretches, and make us appreciate whatever he does. The larger question, though, is whether he imparts any knowledge that is considered valuable? There’s no doubt we might win more games with him than without him, but that is not the metric of success this season.

So the argument boils down to these question which systematically answer the question of who, not just starts, but plays 38 minutes a night:

  • Do we care about racking up wins? No.
  • Is Calderon a core part of the DeRozan-Davis-Jonas nucleus to follow? No.
  • Have the Raptors evaluated Bayless? No.
  • Do the Raptors need to make a decision on Bayless soon? Yes.
  • Do we care of Calderon runs a better pick ‘n roll with Ed Davis than Jerryd Bayless? No.
  • Do the Raptors need Calderon’s services with Carter around? No.
  • Does Calderon bring a unique tangible such as leadership or toughness? No.
  • Do we want Calderon to be happy and play for a winning team? Yes.
  • ……you fill in the rest.

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